Most people marry because they love each other and want to spend the rest of their lives together. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case, and many marriages end up in divorce.
However, divorce is not the only option when it comes to solving marital differences. Some couples opt to separate or take a break from living together as husband and wife, although they are still married.
Separation enables both spouses to step back from the marriage to gain a more realistic perspective on their relationship, themselves, and the other partner. The period of separation can last from as little as three months to a year or even more, depending on the law in your state or region.
Statistics from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show a relatively high rate of separations ending in divorce, especially if the time spent apart is too long. This is why it is normal for couples to wonder whether they can save their marriage during a separation.
However, the truth is that no matter how bad things are, couples in a functional marriage can still work things out.
If you are currently in that scary place between marriage and divorce, this article will show you how to rebuild your marriage during a separation. Undoubtedly, saving your marriage during a separation takes a lot of consistent effort, but it is doable.
Can You Save Your Marriage During a Separation?
Here’s a straightforward answer: yes! You can save your marriage during a separation, whether it is a legal separation involving a court order or an informal or trial separation.
Unlike a divorce, spouses are still legally married during a separation, meaning you can still make things work and prevent a divorce. And even if a separation leads to divorce, it is not surprising to find a few ex-couples rekindling their romance, remarrying, and living happily ever after.
In other words, don’t live the rest of your life in regret and self-blame if your marriage is going through a separation. Even if the issues are mostly your fault, you’ll be better off researching how to rebuild your marriage during a separation rather than wallowing in self-pity.
Spend the time apart reflecting on what went wrong, the part you played, what you could have done differently, and your spouse. This period gives you and your spouse ample time to think about your relationship, what it means to you, and realize what you could lose if things end up in a divorce.
After deep and honest reflection, if you’ve determined that you truly want to continue your marriage, the following practical steps can help you save your marriage.
How to Rebuild Your Marriage During a Separation: 8 Practical Steps
1. Reflect and Work on the Underlying Issues
The first step in rebuilding your marriage during a separation is identifying the core issues that led to the separation in the first place.
There’s really no point getting back with your spouse if both of you are not willing to make lasting positive changes or encourage a healing separation. You need to change your thought patterns and reactions if you must objectively work through the underlying issues and find ways to make your marriage work and encourage a healthy relationship.
If you don’t figure out what caused the problems that drove you apart and how to prevent them from reoccurring, chances are you’ll encounter the same issues again.
What do you think drove you and your spouse apart? Was it:
- Financial problems, such as unhealthy spending habits or controlling your expenditure
- Mismatch sexual desires
- Conflicting ideas about expressing love
- Neglect (for example, a workaholic who consistently neglects their spouse’s emotional needs or has little time for physical intimacy)
- Infidelity (including compulsive flirting, sexually unfaithful, and emotionally intimate with others)
Whatever the marriage problems, you must be honest with yourself to identify it and work on correcting your flaws. No one is perfect, not even your spouse. However, if you try to work on your flaws, you’ll be a better person, and your future relationships will be better, whether or not you get back with your current spouse or continue with the divorce process.
Undoubtedly, separation presents a good opportunity for anger to dissipate and wounds to heal. However, without deep soul-searching, issues won’t completely fix themselves. Your incompatibility will still exist even after several months of living apart if you don’t identify and work on the underlying issues that led to separation.
2. Be Completely Honest About Your Decision
You want to be completely down-to-earth with yourself after reflecting on the core issues that led to a separation and unhappy marriage.
You may truly want to avoid a broken home, but certain marriage problems are difficult to correct. For example, it might not be possible to get back with an abusive partner unwilling to change or a narcissist who only thinks of themselves. Perhaps there is an issue with broken trusts, infidelity, or sexual intimacy.
Irreconcilable differences in sexual preferences or health issues leading to a sexless marriage might also prevent couples from getting back together.
Here’s the bottom line: once you’ve reflected on the issues that led to the separation agreement, decide whether you want to stay or quit the failing marriage. In any case, remember that an unhealthy or toxic marriage full of negative emotions isn’t worth it.
3. Avoid Hasty Decisions
If you’ve decided that you truly want to rebuild your unhappy marriage, don’t be too quick to end the separation. You may miss your spouse so much (and they miss you, too!), but it is always best to take things slow.
You don’t want to make decisions based on emotions (“I can’t live without him/her”) or considerations like the effect of a divorce on your children (“l don’t want my kids to grow up in a broken home”).
Indeed, distance makes the heart grows fonder, but that’s not enough reason to reconcile with your spouse. Be realistic and objective, and don’t allow societal pressure to push you into any hasty decisions. Prematurely ending a separation agreement can lead to worse problems in an already failing marriage.
You may want to get back with your spouse, but you must be sure that you want the same thing. Don’t force them to change their minds. Instead, give them all the time they need to decide what’s best for them and the relationship.
4. Communicate Your Desire to Get Back Together
Once you decide that your marriage is worth saving and have started working on your issues, it is time to let your partner know that you would love to reconcile and get back together. Tell them what you’re doing to rebuild your marriage but ensure that you don’t pressure them into accepting your proposal.
If your spouse indicates a willingness to save the marriage, it is important that they also make an effort to work on their issues. That’s the surest way to be sure that you will both rebuild your failing marriage.
However, if they are unwilling to get back, don’t force them or try to make them miss you. Attempting to coerce your partner into reconciliation might lead to regrets down the line.
5. Resist the Urge to Point Fingers
As mentioned, fighting to keep your marriage alive during a separation involves introspection. However, it is important to avoid playing the blame game, even if you weren’t at fault.
Finger-pointing is the last thing you want to do when trying to rebuild your marriage. Blaming your partner won’t make the situation any better. On the contrary, finger-pointing can make your partner feel worse and second-guess their decision to reconcile.
Shift your focus from whatever went wrong in the past, and channel your energy to finding lasting solutions to your issues.
6. Take Steps to Rebuild Trust
It is highly unlikely that your spouse will run into your arms just because you said you want to get back together. A functional marriage is built, and once there’s a reason for both partners to take a break, that trust is somewhat affected.
That’s another way of saying you need to work on rebuilding trust when trying to save your marriage during a separation. Remember that building trust takes time, especially when it has taken a hit.
Also, getting your partner to completely trust you like before might be a long and difficult process, depending on the cause of the marriage separation. For example, rebuilding trust during a separation can be tough if the issue involves infidelity.
You must patiently allow time for healing while you take practical steps to rebuild credibility and establish trustworthiness. For example, go for anger management therapy if you tend to let anger get the best of you or join an Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) group if you have an addiction problem. This could be the time for a more therapeutic separation.
It can be helpful if you and your partner agree on a mutual solution for your individual issues and then commit to the solution. In addition to rebuilding trust in a broken marriage, a mutual agreement shows that both of you are willing to make changes to save your marriage.
7. Be Clear About Relationship Deal-Breakers
Setting ground rules is crucial for learning how to rebuild your marriage during a marriage separation. Having been apart from your spouse for months gives you ample time to truly understand what you expect in a marriage and things that are deal-breakers for you.
Although saving your marriage entails compromises, you don’t want to settle for behaviors that eventually lead to resentment.
Consider the period of separation as a time to press the reset button. Where have you shifted grounds too much that it resulted in losing your values? What did you agree to or was quiet about that cost you a happy marriage and sanity?
Identify your relationship deal-breakers and let your partner know that you won’t compromise on those things anymore. Be polite and tactful, but be honest.
8. Reestablish Contact
It may take several months of consistent effort, but eventually, you’ll have to get physically closer at some point. Remember to take baby steps and never do so until you feel ready.
You might want to start with going on occasional dates. Give yourself the chance to interact with and love your spouse again. Look for the good in your spouse and accept them for who they are. Find opportunities to show genuine kindness and treat them with respect.
Is Your Marriage Worth Fighting For?
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Keeping hope during your time apart is great – it paves the way for reconciliation and getting back together. While you should do everything to save your marriage, the truth is that not all marriages are worth fighting for.
It is better that your time apart leads to a good divorce than to return to a dysfunctional marriage.
I’ve earlier suggested that it is crucial to carefully examine the core cause of the issues that led to the separation before you even set out to reconcile with your partner and rebuild your marriage.
Indeed, all marriages have ups and downs, which can take a toll on the relationship and even lead to a separation. However, a dysfunctional or toxic marriage is unhealthy and consistently on a downward spiral. If you’ve walked away from a bad marriage, it is not worth fighting for or rebuilding.
A dysfunctional marriage is one with an abusive spouse, a narcissistic partner, or one with consistently high levels of conflict. Making an effort to reconcile with your partner is great, but if the relationship costs your happiness, it is usually best to quit the marriage altogether.
Showing kindness and being respectful toward your spouse can help you resolve your differences and rebuild your marriage during a separation.
Of course, things will not always be rosy; after all, marriage is not a bed of roses. However, by making healthy compromises and a willingness to work through issues, you can save your marriage from the brink of divorce.